St. Gabriel residents gathered in mass last week at the Community Center to let their voices be heard at a public hearing hosted by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on a potential expansion of Adsorbent Solutions, LLC.

Adsorbent Solutions (ADSO) is a carbon reactivation plant located at 7100 St Gabriel Ave. seeking to expand and rezone its current operation.

The expansion includes adding a kiln, thermal oxidizer, scrubber system, screen dust collector, steam boiler, diesel powered vacuum and natural gas emergency generator, according to the LDEQ.

ADSO is also applying to remove three reactivation heaters, a combined thermal oxidizer emissions, dust control system, diesel powered vacuum system and emergency generator from the permit.

According to ADSO President Stewart Fulton, ADSO takes spent, activated carbons used for pollution control to be cleaned and recycled.  “We destroy these toxic air pollutants,” Fulton said.  “We are trying to clean up the environment.”  ADSO is the only company on the Gulf Coast that does this, according to Fulton.

“I think the most important thing for tonight is transparency,” said ADSO representative George Grace at the Tuesday, March 7 public hearing.  “ADSO is installing new equipment for a safer environment, more monitoring which will overall lead to a safer product.  Our philosophy is transparency.”

ADSO’s transparency is what some St. Gabriel residents debated at the public hearing and claimed foul smells and cancer-causing chemicals were coming from the St. Gabriel plant.

“We asked them (ADSO) about the 75-foot smokestack and they said there would be a constant plume and they said it was just steam.  After further questioning, they said there would be emissions,” said one St. Gabriel resident living within two miles of the plant.  “That’s not very transparent.”

“I’ve seen my great nephews and nieces stand on the side of the street with tears in their eyes, can’t breathe, and crying,” said resident William Smith.  “Stop polluting our air.  I’m asking DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) to do the right thing.”

“Adsorbent has not accepted their responsibility at all,” claimed another resident.  “Their chemicals have constantly bombarded our community.”

Other citizens expressed worry about the chemical emissions affecting nearby residents, prisoners and students at the neighboring schools, East Iberville and MSA-East, and urged the DEQ to install monitors to test the air, water and soil.

Retired U.S. Army General Russel Honore’ spoke at the public hearing and encouraged residents to speak up about ADSO.  “My number one request is for DEQ to do its job,” Honore’ said.  “This particular company might have some good intentions, but their records have clearly shown that they are not living up to the standards of clean air and clean water.

“We demand within the next twenty-four hours that the DEQ put air monitors, water monitors and land monitors in and around the area. We demand it.  We demand that you (DEQ) be the employees of the taxpayers of Louisiana and not the employees of the chemical association.  We deserve better than this.”

Residents then filled the St. Gabriel Council Chambers last Thursday, March 9 in hopes of speaking out against ADSO at the scheduled Mayor and City Council meeting, but were not allowed to speak since the project on the agenda was just being introduced.

“There’s a distinction between public forum and public hearing,” St. Gabriel Mayor Lionel Johnson.  “Although we’ve been dealing with this issue for awhile, tonight was a reintroduction so literally it’s coming to the board for the first time.  Typically when we have an introduction of an item, there is no public forum on that item.”

Mayor Johnson said they have been dealing with this item since August when the city was hit by the floods.  ADSO then asked for a table in October, and Johnson chose not to put ADSO on the agenda in November.

“In December there was another parliamentary procedure question that was brought forth,” Johnson said, “and in January we found out about the DEQ hearing to be held the next month so we decided to table it just so that we can get all of the information and allow our constituents the opportunity to express their concerns to DEQ.  Therefore, it was introduced again this month and we will have a public hearing and vote on it next month (April).  Everything went the way it was supposed to go.”

Residents gathered outside the Council Chambers after the conclusion of the meeting where Honore’ encouraged citizens to stay engaged.

“The democracy will only work if the people stay engaged,” Honore’ said.  “We are going to fight and we are going to take it to the legislature.  We need the democracy to work for us, not for the oil and gas company.”

ADSO President Stewart Fulton addressed the media after the Thursday meeting.  “They are just simply protecting their interests,” Fulton said.  “They are interested in public safety, and I understand that and appreciate that very much.”  Fulton also said the company did have violations in the past, but they continued to work with the DEQ to fix them.

“The point of this expansion is to increase the safety,” Fulton said.  “It is good for the community, but it is also really important to our customers who are refineries and chemical plants, etc.  Our goal in this expansion is to bring environmental responsibility not only to our community but also to our customers.”

Fulton explained the new expansion will allow ADSO to eliminate a lot of the problems that have ever happened in the past in a closed-loop system and will have a “very high level of destruction efficiency”.

“As far as I know, everything is in compliance,” Fulton said.  “I am doing everything humanly possible and financially possible to improve dust control efficiency, improve scrubber efficiency for acid gasses…and tighten up anything that can cause an odor.  We are doing everything we possibly can and using every technology available to us.”

Residents will look to fill the Council Chambers again at the public hearing, forum and vote that will take place April 20, 2017.  This is a developing story.  Follow the Post South on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PostSouth and on Twitter @ThePostSouth for updates.